CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The health care industry is split when it comes to vaccine requirements for their employees. Some, like Vanderbilt and Ascension Saint Thomas, make it mandatory. Others leave it up to the individual employee.
That became a big issue for the Winn family of Clarksville, Tennessee. When it comes to COVID-19, they don't leave much up to chance. "These are some of the supplies I use every day," explained Patricia Winn, holding gloves and masks.
But even with an arsenal of cleaning supplies and being fully vaccinated, they both came down with breakthrough cases of COVID-19. It left Patricia bedbound and her husband Howard so frail, he was admitted into intensive care at the local hospital. "They put me in, stuck some oxygen in my nose and I didn’t leave there for three weeks," said Howard.
The only way doctors let him come back home was if he'd be willing to stay on oxygen, so now a lengthy lifeline of airflow weaves through his entire house. "I’ve never have thought about what animals with long tails have to put up with," Howard joked.
But Patricia knew neither of them could take any more chances. So when home health nurses started coming by to check in on Howard, she had some questions.
"I said, 'well have you had your vaccinations?' She said, 'no.' And I said, 'well why not?' She said, 'well I’m healthy. If you’re healthy you don’t need that vaccination,'" recounted Patricia.
"Pat just got all over her and told her to get out of here. We don’t want anybody who hasn’t had the vaccination especially a health care worker," explained Howard.
The agency, Tennova Home Health, doesn't require its employees to be vaccinated. Despite the name similarities to Tennova Healthcare, the main hospital in Clarksville, Tennova Home Health is owned and operated by LHC Group.
Howard argues unvaccinated health care workers, especially those who do home visits, should be required to be vaccinated. "We don’t want anybody — I don’t care who it is. The preacher, or the teacher or a doctor coming in that hasn’t been vaccinated. It’s our house," he said.
But companies like Tennova Home Health may start getting more pressure from the federal government to require vaccines. Earlier this month, the Biden administration issued an executive order requiring all health care companies that work with Medicaid and Medicare, which is nearly all of them, to require their employees to get vaccinated.
A spokesperson for LHC Group says they are waiting for more instructions from the Biden Administration on the vaccine mandate. Until then, they continue to recommend the vaccine for their employees.
Patricia has a different recommendation. "I expect doctors and nurses to take the vaccine. I expect the home health care workers to have the vaccine," she said
Patricia says Tennova Home Health has agreed to only send vaccinated home health nurses to their house from now on.
Here's the full statement from Tennova Home Health:
Since the onset of the pandemic, we have implemented strict protocols for all clinicians regarding the use of personal protection equipment (PPE) on patient visits – including the requirement for masks. In addition, we provide updated guidance on CDC protocols and best practices to ensure our teams are prepared and informed. At all times, our number one priority is the health and well-being of our patients, employees, and the communities we serve. We, like many other healthcare companies, are awaiting further and more specific details from the Biden Administration around the previously announced mandate. Until then, we continue to encourage and recommend vaccination.